by The Rev. Mark Buetow
St. John 14:23-31
God always works through means. He never just does stuff "out of the blue." He always deals with us and comes to us and blesses us through earthly things that have His Word and promises and gifts attached. One of the ways in which this is most obvious is that of mothers. Many of you are mothers. All of you have a mother. It is through your Mom that God gives you life and brings you into this world. Babies don't just fall out of the sky. Moms have to give birth! And when you get hurt playing at the park, God doesn't just thunder an "It'll be OK" at you from the clouds. It is through Moms that cuts and scrapes are taken care of. When you need clothes, does God just drop you a pair of pants from the sky? No, it is through Mom's hard at work that God provides for us our clothing and food and so on. Sometimes, of course, Moms don't do their job. But the Lord still takes care of us with Grandmothers who take over the job of Mom. Sometimes, when Dad's don't do their job, Mom takes over that job, too. In any case, it is through Moms that the Lord accomplishes a whole lot in our lives. So take the time to celebrate your Mom today. But not for her own sake. Let her know that you recognize that she is the one that God Himself gives in His place to raise and care for you. And Moms, don't just indulge that you get a day for yourself, learn and believe that you are in the place of God Himself as the one who is given for the care and nurture of your children. You see? God works through means.
And God also works through means in saving the world. Jesus tells His disciples that He has been given command by the Father to save the world and He does it. When the Father rescues us from sin and death, again, it's not some thunderous proclamation from heaven that we can't be sure we heard correctly. He sends His Son into this world, born of a woman. With hands and feet to walk around and talk and preach and heal. Jesus is a real human being who does stuff. And the sins of the world—our sins—get laid upon Him at His baptism and He carries them to the cross. And by His death on the cross, the sins of the world are wiped out. But His resurrection, the power of death is defeated. By His ascension, our salvation really is wrapped up in Jesus in the heavenly places. By His real, actual, physical existence in this world, the Son of God does the work of saving sinners. God works through means. He doesn't just magically make our sins go away. But through the means of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, the Father no longer counts our sins against us. You see? God works through means, through the real flesh and blood of His Son, to accomplish our salvation.
But the means don't stop there. Jesus tells His disciples that the Comforter will come and will remind them of all things that He said to them. This is fulfilled today on Pentecost when the Spirit it poured out on those Apostles. And what do they do? They preach Jesus. They speak God's Word. Again, rushing wind and tongues of fire are all neat and exciting, but what is the end result? That through the voice of His chosen men, the Spirit speaks Christ's Word of salvation and forgiveness to sinners. This is the Christian Church: in which the Spirit is at work through means, preaching the Gospel and giving new birth to sinners. In fact, it is by this new birth of water and the Spirit that sinners become God's children. That is why we call the Church our Mother. It is from her womb, the font, that we are born again, born from above. Just as the Spirit hovered over the waters on the day of creation, just as He breathed into wet dirt to make man a living being, just as He came with the angel Gabriel's Word to Mary, so the Spirit comes to us through our Mother, the church. Just as your heavenly Father gives you an earthly mother to give birth to you, comfort you and feed you, so your heavenly mother, the Church, gives birth to you by water and the Word and the Spirit. She comforts you against the nightmares of the devil with the holy words of absolution. She feeds you with the pure milk of the Word and as you grow up gives you the strong and sustaining food of Jesus body and blood. This is Pentecost, dear Christians, when the Spirit comes upon Christ's church and by His holy gifts gives us life! You see? God works through means continually today, in His church, giving us Jesus by water, word, body and blood.
But just like the kid who gets mad at his mother and so he packs his suitcase and runs away, the world doesn't want the Church as a Mother. The world doesn't want God and His gifts. The world wants to make its own way and do its own thing. And so it despises Christ and His Word. Just as some people laughed at the apostles on Pentecost, so the world laughs at the Church and the preaching of Christ. It mocks the Good News that we don't have to try to save ourselves because we have a Savior in Jesus Christ. It jokes and makes fun of those who believe their only hope and confidence is Christ and what He has done for us and gives us. Just as the child who runs away and can't provide for itself, so the world runs from the gifts God gives through His church and starves to death apart from God's grace. On the other hand, just like some mothers don't want to stand in God's place to care for their children and may even abandon them, so the world is full of churches who don't want to stand in God's place and give His gifts, but abuse their children by feeding them junk food all the time and not showing that they are there to give God's gifts. These are churches in which Jesus is not to be found in His Word and Sacraments but only in hearts if you look hard enough or in a person's outward piety or "walk" with Jesus. These churches deny that they are true spiritual mothers because all they have is self help and self-deceit and not the pure milk of God's Word and the food of Christ's body and blood. Beware of such preaching and teaching! Hear Christ's promise that the Spirit comes to remind us of all that He said and did. And run from any preacher or church or religious idea that isn't about delivering Jesus to you.
Our earthly mothers are sinners. They make mistakes. They don't always do right by their children and they often exasperate and embarrass their kids. Yet nevertheless, the Lord commands us to "Honor your father and your mother" anyway. That is His command. Kids, you have no cause whatsoever to back talk or disagree with your parents. Your Mom is your Mom because God made her so. There is no such thing as "that's not fair" or "you never let me" or "I hate you!" There is no place for such things. Children, if you would give your Moms a true Mother's Day, then not just today, but every day, ask yourself, "What must I do today to put a smile on Mom's face and to make her glad I'm her kid?" Likewise Moms, you aren't called to be your kid's friend or pal but their Mother. To provide for them and care for them and most of all, to show them that God works through means. To teach your kids that you stand in God's place to provide for them. But more than that, to see that they learn to love their spiritual mother, the Church. To learn with them how God works through means. You see, if the church is our mother, then we all have much to learn as to how to treat Mom. In Christ, you have been given a heavenly Father and a spiritual mother. Rejoice in her gifts! Learn all that she does for you. And again, not for the Church's sake, but so that you learn to glorify God the Father who has given us the Spirit that we might be reminded of all that Jesus said and did for our salvation.
God works through means. He doesn't just "do stuff" out of the blue. Just as He cares for us by the hands of our Moms, so He saves us by the blood of His Son and delivers that forgiveness by the gifts we receive in the Church, our spiritual mother. By water, word, and body and blood, the Lord comes to us, blesses us, forgives us, and does what nothing else in the world can do: give us peace. As the gentle mother rocks her child and comforts him against a bad dream, "It's OK, Mommy's here," so even greater than that, our Lord Jesus promises us: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. Not as the world gives. Let not your hearts be troubled. Neither let them be afraid." Why not? For Christ has won all salvation for us. And the Spirit has come preaching and washing and feeding in the Church. And that's all from our heavenly Father for our good. So Happy Mothers Day to Moms. And a Blessed Pentecost to all those who are in Christ. Amen.
The Rev. Mark Buetow is pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in DuQuoin, IL, and the Internet Services Executive for Higher Things. He edits the Daily Reflections. He is married and father of three.
Created: May 9th, 2008